Going against the stream
My cousin Maryann and her son, Mark and I were browsing through the gift shop in the Cleveland Museum of art after enjoying the current exhibition Remaking Tradition: Modern Art of Japan from the Tokyo National Museum.
I opened a book with a picture of Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads on the cover. We had taken pictures with a few of those bronze heads mounted on tall poles on our last visit. This time I wanted one of the horse, this being the year of the horse and my year, at that. The photo that turned out the best was taken by a passerby of both Maryann and me under and slightly in front of the horse. We each took the museum pamphlet that has a few photos of Ai Weiwei’s work and a brief history. There is much more information on Wikipedia on line. There was also a documentary on PBS a few weeks about him and his art.
One of the pieces in the pamphlet that I like the best is a Han Dynasty pot onto which he painted the Coca Cola logo. He designed the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing as a toilet seat – he has no affection for the project.
After the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China which was 7.9 according to the New York Times, though Wikipedia said it was 8.0 (Richter Scale) Ai Weiwei led a citizen’s investigation to survey and film disaster areas – the quake killed 70,000 people, of which an estimated 10,000 were students who died due to substandard construction of school buildings. The government shut down his blog.
According to Wikipedia, Weiwei’s father, Ai Qing, a renowned poet, was also openly critical of the government and that activity landed the family including Weiwei as a small child, in exile for sixteen years.
Clearly, speaking for those who have no voice, and standing up to government and big corporate money is a risky business. Thankfully, some who can, do.